Grand Valley State University is committed to transparency, oversight, and accountability with all of its constituencies: the campus community and the people of Michigan. The Constitution of the State of Michigan places oversight of its public universities with boards of trustees. Members are elected by the people or appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.
The voters of Michigan, in adopting its Constitution, placed university governance in the hands of trustees, not the legislature. This is for good reason. It protects academic freedom and ensures that university oversight is the responsibility of the trustees who have operational authority. Changing this arrangement, which has been in place for 170 years, is unnecessary and unwise.
All 15 of Michigan’s public universities oppose Joint Resolution E, which would amend the Michigan Constitution to make universities subject to the Open Meetings Act. We believe this step is unnecessary because the Constitution already stipulates the kind of transparency the OMA requires of public bodies.
While the Grand Valley Board of Trustees is not subject to the Open Meetings Act, the board respects the intent of that law. The Constitution requires formal meetings of the board be held in public. Our board goes further and conducts all committee meetings in public. It publishes its agenda in advance, and the minutes of previous meetings are available online. All institutional matters that require board approval are voted on in public, such as the setting of tuition, room and board rates, budgets and contracts.
The university board welcomes public attendance at its meetings and encourages public comment, which can easily be arranged online (www.gvsu.edu/boardoftrustees). Those who want to communicate directly with the board or individual trustees can do so through the web page.
At the November 1 meeting, based on my recommendation, the board will consider an amendment to our by-laws to reduce the advance time required for submitting a request to make public comment and to make it clear no request will be rejected based on the subject matter. These changes are in addition to ones already made in our process and website that increase the visibility of board activities and the opportunity to address trustees.
In addition, thousands of pages of university budget records, performance and activities are available online (https://www.gvsu.edu/budgets/budget-performance-transparency-reporting-9.htm).
We thank the Lanthorn editors for this opportunity to inform the discussion. Transparency is an important and worthy topic and the changes noted above were informed by this community discussion.
Philomena V. Mantella, president
Grand Valley State University